What was I doing freezing my fingers off on the Brands Hatch motor racing circuit in Kent in February?
Simple. I'd been conned into doing a 'hot' lap of the Indy Circuit to get the ball rolling for BikeRadar Live. The UK's biggest bike bash is still five months away on the weekend of 10-11 July but we wanted to give you an idea of what it's going to be like.
The first good news is that I can (almost) guarantee it won't be snowing in July. The other is that the circuit is only 1.9km (1.2 miles) long. That's less than half the length of the Donington Park circuit we used last year.
The not-quite-as-good news is that the shorter the effort, the more intense the pain. And the 1.9km circuit features a couple of climbs – one steep, one a long drag – and it could well be windy. Don't think you're going to blast around at warp speed without suffering.
After an early drive from Bath, we arrived at 9am on the off-chance that we could get on the track before the cars did. There was testing going on all day – mostly rich kids with fancy Formula racing cars roaring around at 150km/h. Us? Well, we were going to be slower.
I didn't think much of our chances of getting onto the circuit at all, as by 11am it was still 0°C and snowing hard. The 25mph north-easterly wind made it seem even colder, more like -5°C. It wasn't a day to be wandering around outside.
Amazingly, by lunchtime the sun had snuck out and we were given 30 minutes on the famed track by ourselves. Me on the velocipede, Matt "Move over Cecil B DeMille" Cole filming from a following car and HotChillee's Sven Thiele and Jane Blanco (London-Paris organisers) and BikeRadar Live event organiser Grant Norris in another vehicle. All of them warm.
I did a couple of laps' warm-up to get to grips with the circuit, which was drying out but still tricky in the stiff wind. Especially on a time trial bike with a deep section front and rear disc wheel.
Then the moment of truth, stripping off my body warmer, thermal jacket and gloves, and meeting the Arctic blast head, side and backside on. Argh! Did I mention that it was cold? At least it wasn't for long.
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The lap started with a downhill that steepened at the bottom, then kicked up sharply to a gentle U-turn. It was important to punch it up here then hit the next descent to recover a smidgin.
At the bottom there was a left-hander which should really be taken on the TT bars (I didn't) before the main drag up to the top corner. That climb is less steep than the first one, but it was hurting after the initial effort.
The finishing straight is at least downhill. I didn't go for the gut wrenching effort; just enough to get across the line in a reasonable time. I stopped, got my breath back, failed to convince Grant that I wasn't about to have a heart attack (because I was out of breath) and eventually told them the time: 2'40.
Not bad, although I'd like another 10 seconds. Sven thought a time closer to 2'20 would win it on the day.
"Okay, can you do another lap going the other way?"
"Yes ... just ... let ... me ... catch ... my ... breath."
Two minutes later and I was off again, doing the circuit in reverse (which we may do for BikeRadar Live if they'll let us). Up the drag at the start, around the top corner to hit the gradual descent, right at the bottom to go up the shorter hill, left around the U-turn, flat out down the descent then gear death as I hit the final climb up to the start/finish.
Ouch. That's it. After just 10 minutes exposed to the air, my hands have lost all feeling, but I'm still able to hit the 'lap' button on my Garmin. I check the time and it's exactly the same: 2'40. Hmm. Oh well, at least it's fair.
I'd say the second way (anti-clockwise) is probably harder for a circuit race because of the uphill finish. So be warned!
What do you think you can do for a lap?
For more information on BikeRadar Live, head to the BikeRadar Live website.